Friday September 29, 2023

Poliovirus found in City sewage sample’

By Our Correspondent
August 31, 2023

LAHORE:The National Institute of Health (NIH), Islamabad, has confirmed presence of poliovirus in environmental sample from Lahore, which is genetically linked to virus in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

The NIH declared presence of Wild polio virus type-1 (WPV-1) in environmental sample collected from Outfall Fall Road Drains – part of Ravi Town and Data Town – in Lahore.

The sewage sample was collected on August 15, 2023. The investigators found the trace of virus importation from Afghanistan. The investigations further revealed that this is first importation from Kandahar province and 13th importation from Afghanistan in total this year.

The presence of poliovirus in Lahore’s environmental sample has been found to be 99.6 percent genetically linked to the virus cluster earlier detected in an environmental sample in Southern Region of Kandahar province, Afghanistan, in May this year.

This was third environmental sample from Lahore that came out positive this year. Earlier in January, two samples from Lahore had tested positive which were found genetically linked to South Waziristan and Afghanistan respectively.

The NIH has, so far, confirmed 17 environmental samples from all over Pakistan as positive for poliovirus (WPV1) this year. Punjab has set up 31 polio environmental sampling sites in 19 districts including Lahore, Multan, Khanewal, Bahawalnagar, Jhang, Attock, Gujrat, Mianwali, DG Khan, Rajanpur, Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Faisalabad, Sargodha, Rawalpindi Gujranwala, Sialkot, Sahiwal and Okara.

“The positive samples in Lahore and Rawalpindi indicate that the virus is circulating in the region. Even if one case has been identified, it’s alarming for all the children”, reiterated Khizer Afzaal Ch, Emergency Operations Centre Coordinator and head of the polio programme in Punjab, in a statement on Thursday.

“The government will soon launch a vaccination response in both Lahore and Rawalpindi to vaccinate every child by administering polio drops to boost their immunity against the crippling disease”, Khizer Afzaal said.

“If a single case is reported in a region, it remains threat to children residing in 200 houses in vicinity. Even though no case is reported from Punjab up till now, but the positive environmental samples are a clear message to all the parents to vaccinate their children with two drops of polio every time it is offered”, added the EOC coordinator.

The surveillance for Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) is considered to be the ‘gold standard’ for polio surveillance in endemic and polio-free countries. But experts also indicated that environmental surveillance could serve as an early warning system for the detection of poliovirus when targeting areas where high-risk groups, such as mobile population, under or un-immunised populations, reside.

Although Punjab is polio free since 2020, the intermittent positive environmental samples from mega cities have shown that Punjab is at the risk of poliovirus importation. In Pakistan, two polio cases have been confirmed. Pakistan and Afghanistan remain only two countries endemic for polio in the world.